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Gilberto Casillas

senior process engineer at imec, Leuven, Belgium

Gilberto Casillas
“In Mexico, the moment you meet somebody, you know they are happy to have you. We feel joy in making foreigners feel at home.”

A land rich in heritage and history

Gilberto Casillas was born in Matamoros in Mexico. After his bachelor of science in Physics at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, campus Monterrey, Mexico, he moved to San Antonio, Texas, in the USA, to pursue his PhD on Advanced Transmission Electron Microscopy. Upon completion of his PhD, he relocated to Wollongong in Australia. Seven years later, he joined imec and moved to Leuven, Belgium.

day of the dead celebrations
Day of the Dead celebrations (picture by Gilberto)

Connected across continents

After finishing his studies in Mexico, Gilberto set out on a cultural exploration. He initially relocated to Texas for his PhD, which allowed him to connect with the worldwide academic community. By attending international scientific conferences on electron microscopy, he was able to build relationships with scholars from around the world. Despite this move, Gilberto remained closely connected to his Mexican roots. His proximity to the US-Mexican border and the presence of many Mexican students and professionals in Texas kept him connected to his homeland.

When he moved to Australia, he was amazed by the blend of cultures and nationalities. In Australia, Gilberto’s cheerful Mexican disposition played a role in forming connections with like-minded individuals from various parts of the world.

Gilberto always had a strong desire to explore Europe. When the imec opportunity arose in 2020, he swiftly gathered his belongings and embarked on his journey to Belgium. Amidst the echoes of Covid-19 lockdowns in Belgium, a fellow imec employee and a friend emerged as a constant during the initial challenges. From conquering the apartment search to acclimating to the work culture, Gilberto navigated with the help of his colleagues. Operating in an entirely virtual workspace, his yearning for outdoor pursuits grew louder. Gilberto’s deep love for rock climbing was a comforting light during this long time. It connected him with a community that shared his passion for the outdoors and sports.

guanajuato - candy colored houses
Guanajuato - Candy colored houses

The magical towns of Mexico

Gilberto and his family frequently visited the Pueblos Mágicos, or magic towns. They stand as living representations of the country’s diverse traditions, customs, and way of life. Set against breathtaking landscapes, these towns encapsulate Mexico’s history while embracing the present. Towns like Tulum, Pátzcuaro, Guanajuato, Valle de Bravo, and Bacalar are just a fraction of the many Pueblos Mágicos scattered around Mexico. These magical towns offer a diverse range of activities, lively festivals, traditional craftsmanship, delectable cuisine, and genuine warmth that cater to different age groups and interests, making them popular destinations for family vacations for tourists and locals alike. Serving as portals to history and custodians of tradition, these towns encourage exploration, fostering a deeper understanding of the country’s multifaceted identity and bridging modern Mexico with its storied history.

Art, spirituality, and ancient wonders

A journey through the landscapes of Mexico is an expedition that reveals ancient legacies and contemporary wonders. Gilberto suggests starting the Mexican voyage at the heart of Mexico City, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The palace is well-known for its breathtaking murals created by notable Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo. The outside and inside of the palace are decorated with sculptures like the famous El Caballito. The palace frequently changes its offerings by hosting temporary fine art exhibitions highlighting creations from Mexican and international artists. Furthermore, the Palacio de Bellas Artes serves as a vibrant center for performing arts, encompassing ballet, opera, music, and theater.

Venturing onward, Gilberto recommends the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This spiritual haven beautifully combines indigenous beliefs and the Catholic faith with vibrant devotion.

mexico - maya and aztec wooden masks
Mexico - Maya and Aztec wooden masks

Next is the Teotihuacan pyramids. Shrouded in mystery, these hidden gems are a testament to the ingenuity and legacy of Mexico’s ancestral inhabitants. An awe-inspiring panorama can be witnessed from the apex of the Pyramid of the Sun. Last but not least, Gilberto prefers the area surrounding Cancun. The underwater wonderland of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is a widely known spot. Snorkeling through these crystalline waters serves as a reminder of the delicate ecosystems that Mexico ardently safeguards.

Must do

Climb the Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun for breathtaking panoramic views of the ancient city and the surrounding landscape.

mexican highlands - teotihuacan pyramids
Mexican Highlands - Teotihuacan pyramids
great mayan reef - gorgonian coral
Great Mayan Reef - Gorgonian coral

Traveling through Mexico reflects the diverse essence and preservation efforts of Mexico’s cultural and natural heritage.